Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm Sorry

TigerBlog was at the soccer field at the University of West Philadelphia Saturday afternoon when contemporary American society broke out all over the place.

It all started when the parent of one of the Princeton women's players referred to "the one from youtube." The context? He said that in a high school game, "the one from youtube" had punched his daughter.

If you're among the very few who haven't seen it yet, New Mexico's Elizabeth Lambert picked the wrong game to commit several of the cheapest shots in the history of women's college soccer. It was the wrong game because it happened to be televised, and for some reason, the camera caught everything Lambert dished out: the cheap shot to the back, the kick to the face and especially the yanked pony tail that could have snapped the BYU woman's neck.

As an aside, where were the refs when all this going on? None of those earned Lambert so much as a look from the official, let alone the red card she deserved. And what about the coaching staff? How about getting her off the field and calming her down?

Anyway, if you go to youtube and enter "Elizabeth Lambert" or "New Mexico Soccer," you'll get back any number of versions of what happened, from the SportsCenter piece and the discussion PTI on down. Add them up, and millions and millions of people have seen this clip. Read the text comments there or on, and they give you another glimpse of where society is at right now (hint, the "I want to go out with her" comments far outnumber the "what poor sportsmanship" ones).

Including those who hadn't already seen it at the soccer field in West Philly Saturday. Back in the day, there's no way anyone would have ever seen it, because it wouldn't have been on TV in the first place. Even if it had been something from a televised game, you would have had to wait for the news and then the short sports report in hopes of seeing it.

Then ESPN and the cable explosion came along, and now you had a chance to see it with much greater frequency. But still, you had to be in front of your TV, in your house, to see it.

Not in 2009. Nope, as soon as the conversation turned to "did you see it?," the solution became "let me show you." A few seconds later, and there it was on any number of hand-held devices.

This is how it works these days. If you think there's no affect on the rest of the way society works, you're wrong. Patience in general is thing of the past. People want what they want when they want it, and more and more it's being delivered to them. The more it does, the more the concept of patience disappears from the world.

Ah, but TigerBlog is getting away from the point. Once Lambert was caught by TV cameras and once it was all over the place, the normal protocol sprung into action:
1) suspension
2) apology

The whole world apologizes for everything these days, to the point where almost no apology seems sincere and few actually appear to understand what an apology is supposed to be. To her credit, Lambert's apology (from New Mexico's website) actually seems to buck the trend:
"I am deeply and wholeheartedly regretful for my actions," said Lambert. "My actions were uncalled for. I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation. I take full responsibility for my actions and accept any punishment felt necessary from the coaching staff and UNM administration. This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player that I am. I am sorry to my coaches and teammates for any and all damages I have brought upon them. I am especially sorry to BYU and the BYU women's soccer players that were personally affected by my actions. I have the utmost respect for the BYU women's soccer program and its players."

Contrast that with the apology that Fox issued after its NFL Sunday crew crossed the line with an animated skit about Jessica Simpson and her weight issues, after she and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo were no longer dating:
"Our poor attempt at humor was insensitive, and we deeply apologize to anyone who might have been offended."

Forget for a minute that maybe someone should have known beforehand that it probably wasn't a good idea for a skit (although in 2009, pretty much anything goes), Fox wasn't apologizing for what it did as much as for the fact that someone may have been offended.

Google "NFL apology" and nearly a million come up. Add the rest of the sports world, and there are apologies out there everywhere. Almost all of them go the Fox route:

"I apologize if anyone took what I did the wrong way or was offended by it or hurt by it."

Here at Princeton, we've been lucky to avoid the "Lambert Moment," when someone's indiscretions while wearing a Princeton uniform are captured on television or end up on youtube (or both). Sure, we've been in the situation where athletes have been suspended, and TigerBlog has written releases where these suspensions include quotes from athletes that are apologies. But it's been years since TB has written one, and his attitude towards them is much different.

There's nothing less sincere than an apology that has been rehearsed, scripted and written by a PR department. TigerBlog's advice on apologizing is to actually apologize, as in: "I'm sorry, because what I did was wrong, and I will work hard not to make those types of mistakes in the future."

Or even better, how about apologizing directly to the person? Why the need to make every apology public? Everyone sees right through them anyway.

To that end, TigerBlog never wants to see another public apology, because they're worthless.

Of course, TB is sincerely sorry if that position in any way offends anyone.

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